united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
Belmont Copper Mine Fire
February 16, 1881
No. Killed – 6
About noon, yesterday, the startling intelligence was received in Helena that a fire had occurred in tunnel No. 8 of the Belmont mine, and that six men were in the mine, who, it was believed, were burned. Later in the day the sorrowful tidings were confirmed. Very meager particulars had been received up to a late hour last night, but from the best information we could get the facts appear to be substantially as follows:
At about 1 o'clock yesterday morning, the blacksmith shop belonging to the Belmont mine caught fire, which was speedily communicated to a magazine containing Hercules powder. The magazine exploded with terrific force, the jar which it occasioned resembling, it is said, the shock of an earthquake.
The fire rapidly spread to the shaft near the blacksmith shop and from thence to shaft No. 3. There were, at the time, eight men working in the mine. Two of the men escaped with but little, if any injury. The remaining six, however, were imprisoned and burned to death before any assistance could reach them. At last accounts five dead bodies had been taken from the mine, and there was no doubt that the remaining man, was dead, although no traces of his body had been found.
The names of the six men who were caught in the awful furnace are:
Several of the men are well known in Helena and have many friends here. The origin of the fire was not certainly known, but it is said that some men had eaten their supper Thursday evening in the blacksmith shop and the supposition was that the flames caught from the fire which they left.
The damage to property was, we understand, trifling, as the fire occurred in a worked out portion of the mine, and will not occasion any stoppage of the mill.